Mohammad Misbah Uddin and his son had only been in Arizona for 11 days before they were killed by a motorist in Chandler while crossing the street to worship at a mosque.
Uddin, a 50-year-old from Bangladesh, died at the scene of Alma School and Erie Street on Monday, Oct. 21, after a Dodge Durango hit him while using a crosswalk. His 13-year-old son, Abdullah, was also hit and transported to the hospital.
The teenager had been in critical condition before his family took him off life-support on Tuesday.
Support for the Uddin family came quickly, nearly $65,000 in donations for funeral expenses was funneled through a GoFundMe.com site within hours after it was created.
Hermes Kyllini, Uddin’s nephew, formed the fundraising site and commented on the cruel irony of his uncle’s death.
“My uncle and his family just immigrated to Chandler from Bangladesh 11 days ago in hopes of a better life and future for his two young children,” Kyllini wrote on the page.
Uddin leaves behind a wife who cannot speak English and a 19-year-old daughter who aspires to be a doctor, Kyllini added.
The Chandler Police Department two days after the accident arrested a Tempe woman on suspicion of driving the vehicle that hit the father and son.
Michelle Hagerman, 54, has been charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident after admitting to authorities she had been involved in the collision.
Hagerman allegedly told Chandler Police she thought she had hit a dog while driving north on Alma School Road. She claimed she stopped and saw other motorists run over to the intersection.
“After seeing several people at the scene, she re-entered her vehicle and left the scene,” a police report stated.
One of Hagerman’s neighbors noticed she had a similar vehicle as the suspect’s car described in news reports. The neighbor contacted Chandler Police after observing structural damage ono the front of Hagerman’s car.
Witnesses told Chandler Police that Hagerman allegedly accelerated her car after the traffic light turned green. The victims were about halfway through the crosswalk when the signals changed and Hagerman entered the intersection.
Bystanders estimated Hagerman was allegedly driving no more than 50 mph, according to police reports. The posted speed limit on this portion of Alma School Road, which is adjacent to a high school, is 40 mph.
Hagerman’s criminal charges can either be classified as a Class 2 or Class 3 felony, depending on whether it can be proved the defendant caused the fatal accident before fleeing.
The presumptive prison sentence for a Class 2 felony is five years and three years for a Class 3 felony.
If convicted, Arizona law requires Hagerman’s license be revoked for at least 10 years.
Members of the Chandler Muslim community have been quick to offer condolences for Uddin’s family. The Islamic Center of the East Valley, the mosque Uddin was walking toward before his death, held a prayer service for him and his son on Wednesday.
Waqas Ellahi, a Chandler resident who attends the mosque with Uddin’s family, said the deaths have had a major impact on their community.
“I don’t even have the words for the family for what they must be going through right now,” Ellahi said.
He regularly drives along Alma School Road and said the incident has made him more vigilant about passing through that intersection.
“It just raises so much more awareness of people who walk, distracted driving, kids who walk to school,” Ellahi added. “We don’t even realize what could happen – somebody could literally run you over.”
Pedestrian deaths have been on the rise across Maricopa County for the last few years. Public records show the number of fatalities jumped from 91 to 160 between 2014 and 2018.
Most of these deaths take place on the streets of Phoenix, but East Valley communities still report a handful of incidents each year.
Scottsdale and Chandler had a couple more pedestrian deaths in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the Arizona Republic, but Mesa and Tempe each saw a drop in fatalities.
Safety advocates say speeding and alcohol are two of the main causes of traffic fatalities in Arizona.
Tara Gill, senior director of advocacy and state legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said her organization is pushing for states like Arizona to consider revising or lowering its speed limits.
Most states set speed limits by calculating how fast 85 percent of the population drives without regulation. But Gill thinks this method is outdated and ineffective.
“People tend to drive 10-15 miles an hour above the speed limit anyway,” she said.
Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, doesn’t think re-adjusting speed limits will have much of an impact.
“I don’t see what it will do,” he said.
Gutier agreed Arizona has a high number of traffic deaths, yet he highlighted how the numbers were worse back in 2006, when the state’s population was much smaller.
Today’s drivers just need to be more cognizant of the extra cars and pedestrians, he added.
“People don’t seem to have any patience to realize there’s more traffic,” the director said.
Daily traffic counts show that the area of Alma School Road and Chandler Boulevard sees about 12,000 more motorists than back in 2013.
Chandler recently reported another hit-run pedestrian fatality on Aug. 16 near Ray Road and California Street. A 68-year-old woman in a wheelchair was struck by a motorist while crossing the street. Chandler Police said the driver in that incident has yet to be apprehended.
Verge.com reported last week that while traffic fatalities overall decreased last year, the rate of pedestrians and cyclists killed on the nation’s roadways increased dramatically.
“Nearly 36,600 people died on US roadways last year, a decrease of 2.4 percent from 2017, according to recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” it said.
“Everyone else, especially vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists, is being killed at an alarming rate. The number of pedestrians killed – 6,283, an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year – was the highest such number since 1990.”